Join Pastor Joe each morning for a time of devotions. Today we begin week three in the New Testament book of Ephesians. We are looking at Ephesians 2:1-10. Today we look at verses 1-2 and we open our eyes to the condition of those around us. Grab a coffee and your Bible and let's dig in!
Today's Devotional Thought:
1 Peter 1:18-19, "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect."
Luke 9:23-24, "Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it."
Popular author and shame researcher Brené Brown recently talked about coming back to church after years away and the moment "the whole Jesus thing" finally clicked. She said:
"People would want love to be unicorns and rainbows. So then you send Jesus, and people say, "Oh my..., love is hard, love is sacrifice, love is trouble, love is rebellious." As Leonard Cohen sings, "Love is not a victory march … it's a broken hallelujah." Love isn't hearts and bows. It is very controversial. In order for forgiveness to really happen, something has to die. Whether it's your expectations of a person, or your idea about who you are. There has to be a death for forgiveness to happen. In all of these faith communities where forgiveness is easy, and love is easy, there's not enough blood on the floor to make sense of that." [William McDavid, Ethan Richardson, and David Zahl, Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints), (Mockingbird, 2015), page 47]
God has not called us to an easy love. He's called us to a cross. Jesus said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." Unless you die to self you cannot follow. If you do not follow you are not Jesus' disciple. Slick-tongued preachers pour honey coated words into itching ears, "I'm ok, you're ok." We sing, "Just As I Am," as if God expects nothing from us but our assent. Perhaps no one has loved you enough to tell you: unless you die you cannot live. Taking up your cross daily and following Jesus isn't easy-chair Christianity. But there isn't grace without a cross. Grace may be free but it isn't cheap.
For their to be forgiveness something has to die. Christ must die so we might live. We must die so Christ may live in us. This isn't unicorns and rainbows. Real love is messy. Real love leaves blood on the floor.
Prayer: Holy Father, today we take up our cross and follow. Help us, as John the Baptist once said, to decrease and Christ to increase. Help us to die to ourselves that we might live. We thank You for Your messy love that left the precious blood of Your Son on the floor for us. It is our only hope. We pray in Jesus name, amen.
Romans 6:3-4, "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
On the wall of President Lyndon Johnson's White House office hung a framed letter written by General Sam Houston to Johnson's great-grandfather, Baines, more than 100 years earlier. Baines had led Sam Houston to Christ. Houston was a changed man, no longer coarse and belligerent but peaceful and content.
The day came for Houston to be baptized—an incredible event for those who knew him. After his baptism, Houston offered to pay half the local minister's salary. When someone asked him why, he said, "My pocketbook was baptized too."
We may not like the idea of dying to self, dying to sin, dying to our wishes, wants and purposes but that is exactly what Christ calls us to when he says, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it" (Matthew 16:24-25). We see the death of self—rightfully so—as complete, irrevocable, possibly painful. But without this death we can not be born into the living hope God has called us (1 Peter 1:3).
But we all must die one day or another. The Christian, in the wisdom God has given us through Christ, chooses to get it over with now so he will not have to go through it later. That later death will only be death. But now, if we are willing to die, we are born into life. Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26). If you do believe this it changes everything for us. Not just what we don't do but what we will do. It is a complete death. But here is the gospel paradox: it is through death that life comes. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Life that comes from death seems like a paradox but it is true.
Geologists said that the eruption of Mt Saint Helens was equivalent to 20,000 atomic bombs going off at once. Everything for hundereds of square miles was laid to waste at once. Every living creature died. Everything—flora, fauna animals. But a fascinating thing took place months later. Biologists flying around in planes observing the destruction began to notice areas where clumps of grass were sprouting. What they noticed is that the clumps of grass were in the shapes of animals—elk, bear, rabbits, ground squirrels. Where an animal had died new life began.
A paradox but true. "The one who believes in me will live, even though they die." Die to live. Deny yourself daily, take up your cross and live for God and you will live through God—a life that will never end, an abundant life.
Prayer: Father God, we do not like to think of death but by the death of our Savior, Jesus, we can have life and through the death of the self, which comes from faith, we do have life. May we see that simple truth that as death is complete so your Lordship over us is complete. We thank you that death is not the end but the beginning of the life you have for us and that life is abundant life in Jesus Christ in whose name we pray, amen.